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When You Eat and Drink, There's a Hidden Ingredient

A study says we're consuming a lot of microplastics
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 5, 2019 5:50 PM CDT
A young man drinks from a water bottle in Ohio.   (J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune via AP)
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(Newser) – You're ingesting a secret ingredient when you eat, drink, and breathe: microplastics. The question is, does it matter? A new study estimates that the average adult ingests at least 98,000 plastic particles annually, the Seattle Times reports. The particles apparently come from various sources including shellfish, sugar, salt, beer, and water—especially bottled water—and might have a negative effect on human health. Microplastics are "a high exposure risk in terms of numbers," study leader Kieran Cox tells the Guardian. "It could be a potential alarm call for sure." Earlier studies have found possible damage to human health, but the jury seems to be out.

A 2017 study hypothesized that cumulative plastic ingestion might be toxic, while a 2018 study of microplastics in seafood found it could eventually damage the gut and the immune system, per National Geographic. But it's a new field, and there are many types of microplastics, including particles that are toxic and others that might carry parasites or bacteria. If you want to play it safe, drink tap water instead of bottled water and avoid plastic packaging that ends up in our environment, says Cox. "The facts are simple," he adds. "We are producing a lot of plastic and it is ending up in the ecosystems, which we are a part of." (Meanwhile, see which veggies need the most washing.)

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